Saturday 1 November 2008


Winter's here. You can tell: it's started raining. Not that this is unknown in the summer...

One of the common ways of keeping dry when cycling here when it rains is to use an umbrella.

I'm sure it works better with a coaster (back pedal) brake than otherwise, and a lot of bikes here have those brakes.

These two photos were taken within seconds of each other on my cycle home from the shops this evening.

Cycling with an umbrella is actually (nearly) officially sanctioned. The 2005 Houten design standards (which unfortunately are no longer available at this link) referred to making sure that sufficient headroom was available for cyclists with umbrellas.

The second photo shows a variation on the theme. Carry a passenger and they can hold the umbrella for you: leaving both hands free for controlling the bike.

It's almost a safety feature...

Talking of safety, I'm sure that some people seeing this will be shocked. Not only are they holding umbrellas, but there are no helmets, no bright reflective clothing, the bikes haven't got lights on (the photos were taken when it was quite dark and I brightened them up in a photo editor). What's more, one of the bikes is carrying a passenger in a way that is illegal in many countries (not here).

So, is it dangerous ? No. The Netherlands is the safest place in the world to cycle. It is so because infrastructure has a far greater effect on safety than such things as special clothing. It is safe here in a passive manner, due to conflict having been designed out of the streets and not due to people being expected to take care at all times and never ever make any mistakes.

There is a very high level of subjective safety here, which is why you find people behaving like this on bikes and feeling safe doing it. The high level of safety is the case with the cyclists who live here, behaving as they behave. i.e. in wet weather behaving as you see here.

Toby Sterling previously wrote a fair bit a while ago about the safety of cycling in the Netherlands. No extra safety equipment is needed.

You may also like to watch this video showing more cyclists in the rain:

There are also blog posts showing people cycling in the snow, in fog and at night.

Cycling in the winter is made more pleasant if you use products which are specially designed to help winter cyclists.


Anonymous said...

I almost lost a friend when I started riding without a helmet. I ride my dutch bike to work with no helmet, no reflective clothing. On dark cloudy days, I switch on the generator that powers the front and rear light. Other than that, not much.

On rainy days though, I have a much lower feeling of subjective safety. The abundant drivers dont seem as alert in the rains. Even some motorists here do not like driving in the rains as they think it increases the risk of an accident. When a motorist lacks subjective safety in the rains, a cyclist is a step down in the food chain. I wear a bright yellow rain jacket and ride with my lights on. I control the lane more aggressively and signal a lot more. I dont mind the rain but I would feel safer on drier days.

Disclaimer: I do not have bike lanes and urban trails on my way to work. I (try to) share the road with the motorists. I'd feel a lot more unsafe on a bike lane though due to the vision of the motorists being constrained by foggy and wet windows. It feels much safer to control the lane. Controlling the lane, however, is a temporary fix till an infrastructure is in place.

David Hembrow said...

Abhishek, I won't criticise you for that. You are doing what feels like the right thing in your circumstances.

If you can get suitable infrastructure, then not only will your own subjective safety improve but so will everyone elses. An increase in cycling can then follow.

Elizabeth said...

God I've never thought cycling with an umbrella.I've seen pictures of umbrella attached to the bikes.I'll have to try this